Problems on the trains this Christmas and your rights
Is your train running this Christmas or have you been duped?
It looks like thousands of Christmas holiday train travellers have been misled into buying more expensive tickets than they would have done normally.
Transport Focus discovered around 15,000 errors in the Rail Delivery Group timetable database. In just one week in December it found 2,648 invalid journeys listed on the database. This is likely to result in Christmas travellers not being able to make the journeys planned. Tickets have been incorrectly sold for services which will not run due to engineering works.
It also found that in the 12 weeks before Christmas – when regulations say timetables and advance tickets should be released – that six major rail firms (Virgin, London Midland, South Western, Great Western, Greater Anglia and Southern) had not offered a full range of advance purchase fares. Passengers were therefore forced to buy more expensive tickets. Sky News reported, for example, that only 15% of services were open for reservation on Greater Anglia, and 25% on Virgin Trains. It also reported that Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has ordered an immediate investigation and said:
“It would be totally unacceptable if any passenger has to pay walk-up fares this Christmas because advance tickets were not available. I expect passengers to be offered the highest standards of customer service and have ordered an immediate investigation into this report. We are delivering the biggest investment in our railways since the Victorian era, and at times those works will cause disruption. I have set out clear plans to bring the operation of track and train closer together that will improve future reliability for passengers.
Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog, Transport Focus, said:
“Failure to release timetables 12 weeks ahead of travel can mean passengers buy tickets for trains that will not run. That can’t be right. Train operators’ advice is to book early at Christmas to get the best deal, but if the timetable has not been finalised only more expensive ‘on the day’ tickets can be bought. Being forced to change plans because the railway hasn’t got this right will only result in more frustration from passengers. The rail industry must act urgently to make sure the timetable is accurate 12 weeks ahead if passengers are to trust they are on their side.”
Rail firms are passing the blame on to Network Rail for failing to finalise their schedule of engineering work. Twaddle! And no doubt if this is true then rail companies will be claiming from Network Rail far more than they will be paying out to compensate customers. Transport Focus said that the failings could lead to a loss of faith in train companies. I say “EVEN more loss of faith!”
Check with your train operator if the train you have booked is running from National Rail Enquiries.
What do you need to know if you want to complain?
1) From 1 October 2016 rail is covered by the Consumer Rights Act 2015, which gives you more rights few know about. If you have been misled into making a decision that you would otherwise not have made then the company is in breach of this law, for starters!
2) Passengers are entitled to have their compensation paid within 14 days, issued by the same method the passenger used to pay for the ticket.
3) Keep your tickets as evidence and take a copy if you have to post them.
4) Make a note of your journey including: Date, time, where travelling from/to and how long you’ve been delayed at the time, before you forget!
5) Make a note of the reason given over the tannoy or on displays, for the delay. Take a photo of any excuses shown on displays.
6) Check how long you have to claim, it is usually up to 28 days.
7) Passengers can claim for any length of delay. If you suffer repeated delays of less than half an hour or overcrowding due to an unexpected lack of carriages, you might get money back if you take your case to court.
8) Currently, no compensation is offered.
9) Where a service has not been provided with reasonable skill and care, passengers will now have a right to a refund of up to the full ticket price.
10) Put your complaint in writing so that you have a record. Keep a screen capture or print out of a web-based refund claim.
11) You don’t need a third party company to claim for you, just like claiming for delayed airline flights. Instead, do it yourself and get 100% of the refund.
12) If the issue was within the company’s control, be objective, succinct and clear in outlining the issue that occurred.
13) Make it clear what you want to happen and what you will do if you are not satisfied with the response (e.g. take it further through Transport Focus or if inside London, London Travel Watch or Small Claims Court.
14) If you are not satisfied with the response, write to the CEO using contact details from the CEOemail.com website. The matter will then be escalated and taken seriously.
15) It may also be possible to claim from your credit card company under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act for non-delivery of services.
Email addresses for CEOs of UK railway companies with links to Delay Repay where applicable.
For more on your consumer rights, advice, information, tips and template letters get the book!